FORMER Army chief of staff Lord Dannatt has apologised on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme for allowing British troops to take an anti-malaria drug despite knowing it can have ‘catastrophic’ mental health effects, and deciding not to use it himself.
The MoD’s doctors prescribed Lariam to more than 17,000 troops between April 2007 and March 2015.
Dannatt told the BBC that his own son had taken the drug and had become ‘extremely depressed’ suffering mental health problems after taking two doses of Lariam. He was not in the armed forces at the time, but had been prescribed the drug by his father’s Army doctor.
Dannatt, who was head of the Army from 2006 to 2009, said the drug’s side-effects – which can include depression and suicidal thoughts – could be ‘pretty catastrophic’. Dannatt said that the MoD was now afraid of opening ‘the floodgates’ to ‘very expensive’ claims.
An ex-soldier Andy told the programme that he was issued with Lariam on the Army’s tour of Sierra Leone in 2000. ‘The effects were almost immediate … I can be a nasty, violent person and I attribute it to this drug. Anything could be misconstrued – a look, a phrase, a word, something completely innocent in someone else’s eyes – but it would be enough to trigger a reaction. A reaction you knew you were doing but you couldn’t stop it.
‘It was as if the wiring in your brain had completely gone. Had I known what the side effects were, I would have taken my chances with malaria. It turned me into an ogre.’
Perhaps this was the quality that the MoD wanted the troops to display to the local population!
In fact, British troops were being treated with contempt as highly expendable cannon fodder. Another fact is that the British ruling class has always treated its soldiery in the same brutal callous fashion and not just in the 19the and early 20th centuries. The development of nuclear weapons saw them tested out not just on Japanese civilians but on British troops and sailors.
Servicemen were stationed to observe the British H Bomb explosions on Christmas Island in the late 1950s, while naval launches were ordered to sail through the blast area. Troops exposed to the blast said that they had no protective gear, but were ordered to turn their backs and cover their faces with their hands. Some reported the flash was so bright they could see their bones through closed eyes, like an X-ray. Others were knocked down by the blast and burned by the heat.
Combat engineer Ken McGinley (founder of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association) has said that afterwards he was ordered to clean up piles of dead birds and bomb debris. Men went swimming in the lagoon, ate fish they caught in the blast zone, and drank rainwater collected in tarpaulins – oblivious to any risk from radioactive fallout. It was the perfect test on unsuspecting soldiers!
Some servicemen got sick while still on Christmas Island; others became ill after returning home. Some seemed fine for decades before developing cancers and other rare diseases. Nuclear test veterans reported that their wives had high rates of miscarriages and stillbirths, and their children also suffered from birth defects and unusual diseases.
Then in Iraq in 2003, the UK used depleted uranium weapons. ‘UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,’ UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in a written reply to the House of Commons.
A joint inquiry by Iraq’s environment, health and science ministries uncovered more than 40 sites across the war-torn country contaminated with high levels of radiation. ‘The study that we have conducted does actually prove that there are massive increases in cancer, a 38-fold increase in leukemia, 10-fold increase in breast cancer and infant mortalities are also staggering,’ one of the authors of the report, British-Iraqi scientist Malak Hamdan, said.
The issue is clear. The British army is made up of expendable cannon fodder, as far as the ruling class is concerned. No young person should enlist in it, and in the days ahead when the ruling class orders the troops to turn on the working class as they did in 1926, the rank and file of the army must say ‘No’ and side with the workers to overthrow British capitalism to bring in socialism.